Sleeping Dog
Credit: Image courtesy of Eugene0126jp, CC, Wikimedia commons

You Can Sleep Better

Your diet can help

Most definitely!

Getting a good night's sleep is important for your body, but it is equally as important for your brain. Both need enough sleep--and good sleep--to recuperate and sometimes re-generate. You've seen what it can do for an exhausted body. But you don't necessarily see what it does for your brain. It is similar though. Your brain too, needs sleep. Without it, it is harder to learn and concentrate, and that is true for any age.

The nutritional value of these foods might have an obvious effect on your sleep. Most are known to be good for much more than that though. Besides being good for heart health, nearly all the foods listed here are recommended for Alzheimer's prevention as well. So not only will you get a better night's sleep (also important for Alzheimer's prevention), but you will be providing your body with safeguards that may help you in the years to come.

This applies to everyone. The earlier to start improving and maintaining your health, through sleep, exercise, and diet, the better your chances are to avoid dementia or Alzheimer's. Start now!

Most of the foods recommended contain either tryptophan, melatonin, vitamin B6, or calcium. So when you are deciding what's for dinner, try to include one or more of the suggested foods.

More on the Healthiest Foods

For sleep, skin, weight loss and more

The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth about What You Should Eat and Why
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Oct 1, 2016)
This book is probably one of Jonny Bowden's most popular. It is not a cookbook, but rather a book that will tell you why you should eat the foods he's included. You might be surprised and pleased with some of his top picks. It's a good book for anyone with an interest in improving their eating habits.

Skip These Foods

At your evening meal

Stack of ChocolateCredit: Image credit CC Wikimedia CommonsFirst off, it would help to avoid these! You probably already know most of them, and how they affect your body and your sleeps.

Chocolate, dark especially, because of the caffeine in it. While it is the healthiest and most recommended chocolate for your heart, it just isn’t the best for night time. Coffee and any other caffeinated drinks should be avoided as well.

You might think alcohol helps you sleep. Many believe it. While it might make you go to sleep faster, as it metabolizes it will cause you to toss and turn.  Notice how that happens after a few hours?  If I have even one glass of wine I feel like I am awake half the night. If I sleep, it is definitely not the deep restful type. Women are reportedly more affected than men.  Alcohol interferes with the REM sleep that is so important to your brain for memory and focus. It also increases indigestion and acid reflux, which can keep you awake. Lastly it may cause you wake more often with the need to urinate.

Besides that, it doesn’t mix well with many medications, which can also cause a more restless sleep. Of course mixed with some medication it can have the opposite affect–you could stop breathing. Please don't drink while taking medication.

High fat meals often interrupts your normal sleep cycle, which can then leave you more tired the next day. That can become a spiral. When you wake tired or run down, you tend to want foods high in sugar.

Spicy food can be bad for sleep partly because of heartburn and indigestion, but also because it actually raises the body temperature at a time when it is usually dropping.

High protein foods, partly because of the bulkiness of it, partly because it takes longer to digest. Again that can cause you discomfort and unrest.

It’s also suggested that you stop eating 2 or 3 hours before you go to bed.

Better Choices for Better Sleep

Which of these will you eat?

What's good to eat for sleep? Foods containing tryptophan. And we aren't talking turkey here, though turkey dinners surely do seem sleep inducing. Here are several other surprising foods that contain tryptophan, that you may feel like eating more often than turkey. Here are the top choices:
  • Soybeans
  • Walnuts
  • Spinach
  • Salmon, and other fatty fish
  • Legumes, especially lentils
  • Chicken

How These Foods Help

Surprising nutrients

EdamameCredit: Image by Tammy Green, CC Wikimedia CommonsI was surprised to learn that chicken contains more tryptophan than turkey! Perhaps it’s topping the turkey with so many other side dishes that seems to increase it’s sleepiness affect. Chicken is a lighter way to get it, with salmon providing even more benefits. Both will provide tryptophan, and protein–which will keep you fuller all through the night, but the salmon also contains the vitamin, B6, among many other brain healthy nutrients.

Spinach is another that seems to make an appearance on every healthy food list I see. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals, but I was unaware of the tryptophan and B6 that it has as well. It really is one of the best foods you can eat!

Walnuts are another food that seem to make most lists. It is often recommended you eat a handful each day for heart and brain health, so we shouldn’t be surprised to see they are good for sleep too.

Soybeans are an excellent source of tryptophan for vegetarians. You’ll get calcium with them too, another nutrient good for sleep.

Lentils always seem to be one of the top choices for legumes, though black beans, pintos, even limas, will provide the helpful nutrients.

There is an excellent variety here that should satisfy nearly every taste, as well as provide a better night’s sleep.

More Details

How these foods help you sleep better

Salmon and Edamame in Ponzu SauceCredit: Copyright Merrci
  • Vitamin B6 and melatonin are also said to help you sleep better and perhaps longer.
  • Spinach and salmon (and the other heart-healthy fish) are good choices for B6. Salmon is also considered a good protein that will help with muscle repair while you are sleeping.
  • Melatonin found in tart cherries is another recommendation as well. It’s good to know that whether dried, frozen, fresh, or juiced, you will still get the benefits.
  • Walnuts are another source for melatonin, besides being the nut with the highest content of tryptophan,
  • Beans of course, provide fiber, carbohydrates and protein, in addition to trypophan. Fiber is is so helpful for digestion, carbohydrates are known to make you sleepy, and the protein in them will help you stay full.

You can see how easy it would be to put together a meal with these ingredients! A lovely spinach salad with walnuts and perhaps some cherries, salmon, and beans-perhaps a lentil soup, chili, or added to the salad. However you like them, they are likely to help you get a better  rest.  Sleep well tonight!

The Sleep Doctor

Sleep, weight, and exercise

The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan: Simple Rules for Losing Weight While You Sleep
Amazon Price: $15.99 $5.00 Buy Now
(price as of Oct 1, 2016)
Dr. Michael Breus will convince you that sleep is as essential as diet and exercise. To lose weight you need adequate sleep. What you eat will influence how you sleep. Exercise works with both. The stress in on sleep in this selection.

A Sound Machine to Relax You into Sleep

10 sounds to choose from

Conair Sound Therapy Sound Machine
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(price as of Oct 1, 2016)
Do you need white noise to sleep? You will appreciate this best selling sound machine if so. Over 1000 4 and 5 star reviews suggest it works very well. Works on batteries or with AC. It has a 60 minute sleep timer, and includes 10 different sounds from a stream flowing to thunder or ocean waves. Relaxing sounds to help you drift off.